For any football club, there are a number of opportunities to generate revenue. Liverpool broke ground in 1979 when they agreed to have Hitachi as a shirt sponsor, but since then all clubs have embraced the idea of shirt sponsorship.
In the 1980s, advertising boards became more prominent around grounds and are now a staple.
During the 90s, specific players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona gained personal sponsorship, ensuring not only a boost to their personal income but also awareness for the brands they agreed to represent. And from 2000 a new revenue stream emerged, stadium sponsorship.
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Currently, there are over 30 sponsored stadiums in England alone, and over 50 worldwide. Airlines, sports retailers and telecoms companies pay vast amounts each year to ensure their name, logo and brand is emblazoned for all to see.
But traditionalists have raised concerns of authenticity. Is selling the club's identity an insult of its history? Is it selling out and compromising its heritage? More modern day thinkers would argue the club is updating itself and embracing commercial opportunities with long-term success, including sustainability, in mind.
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Whilst there is little doubting the financial benefits sponsorship brings, it is important a clubs culture, ethos and history is not compromised. Yet why allow every aspect of a clubs identity to be 'loaned' except the home itself?
Some purists put forward the point that a club's home ground is sacred, and therefore immune to commercial exposure. A club player’s attire including training kit and accessories are all available to sponsorship yet the ground itself should be immune.
Reluctant to change
But these are viewpoints of those who are reluctant to change. It is evident that sponsored stadiums generate much needed revenue for some clubs and considerable extra finance for others. Such an agreement is beneficial to both the club and the sponsor, as it raises the profile for each.
The extra money allows the club to develop its youth academies, invest in better training facilities, buy better players and increase the match day experience for the fans.
Recently, the FA signed an agreement with a telecoms firm to provide communications for Wembley stadium. The money will be used to pay off the overheads and also ensure visitors stay connected in the evolving need of internet connectivity.
Stadium sponsorship improves a club and needs to be welcomed; the future is already here, let’s keep embracing it.
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